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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #368: October 19, 2006

Japan's Prime Minister Rules Out Developing Nuclear Weapons

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japan's Prime Minister Rules Out Developing Nuclear Weapons
(Chisaki Watanabe, AP) San Diego Union Tribune


On Sunday, Shoichi Nakagawa, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's policy research council chairman said in an interview, "There could be an argument that possession of nuclear weapons diminished the likelihood of being attacked," obviously with an eye to recent actions by a neighboring rogue regime.

Mr Nakagawa is not a cabinet member so it was not a comment of the government, and the format in which he spoke indicated it was not a formal position of the LDP. To that extent, it was a view expressed by an elected member of the diet, obviously free to voice his own opinion. In fact, it did not surprise many people, as his political stance as well as the blunt way to express it was well known. Opposition parties and certain critical media responded harshly, but that seemed also not much out of the ordinary - at the outset.

The incident, however, began to attract a large audience when his words were translated into English and were carried on various media worldwide. It induced comments of not only critics but also leaders of major countries both friendly and others around the globe, which included Mr Bush. The tremendous volume of response from foreign countries was something unexpected which disturbed, if not amused, many Japanese. It seemed to surprise politicians as well, as Mr Nakagawa later restated his position, saying he did not favor a nuclear Japan and had only been calling for a debate on all security options. And Prime Minister Abe, for at least the third time after North Korea's blast last week, had to declare that the government would not even start the discussion on building a nuclear bomb.

It was then very timely for the U.S. State Secretary Rice to visit Japan and talk with Japan's top officials. After the talks, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said, "As far as Japan is concerned, we, the government of Japan, have no position at all to consider going nuclear." And Ms Rice responded: "The United States has the will and capability to meet the full range - and I underscore, full range - of its deterrent and security commitments to Japan."

One of the reasons for the Japanese people's dull response to the original comment by Mr Nakagawa was because the people could simply not envisage the notion of Japan building nuclear arms. There were from time to time suggestions to begin studies or discussions on Japan to develop nuclear bombs in the past, but they all faded away facing the people's disinterest in the development - which was backed by their fierce distaste on nuclear arms.

Indeed, the distaste for nuclear arms by ordinary Japanese people is almost a religious belief, or even something built-in to the DNAs, and so it has been too obvious for Japan NOT to get involved in its development. Japan has not considered it necessary to officially reconfirm such a stance as it was so clear and undisputable. However, some point out this could have raised certain level of concern among foreign countries. While it was so obvious for the Japanese that it would simply be a waste of time to even mention it, the seeming quietness has provided the impression to outsiders that the Japanese were vague on the issue.

Incidentally, this leads to an interesting speculation. In short, it suggests that the whole sequence of comments by Mr Nakagawa, Mr Aso, and Ms Rice was staged - acted upon a scenario. The aim would have been to re-declare Japan's will of NOT getting involved in nuclear arms development, to obtain an explicit re-affirmation of the U.S. commitment in protecting Japan militarily, to re-impress the world of the close ties between Japan and the U.S., and perhaps on top of all that to bring the issue of nuclear arms into daylight from the subconscious level of Japan's people.

There is yet another observation. As stated above, an overwhelming majority of the Japanese had not considered it an option for Japan to utilize "nuclear force" in any way whatsoever - real or superficial. While still virtually every Japanese considers it obscene to even think of building nuclear bombs, some may have began to wonder that if the world responds so acutely on just a hint of suggesting to start a study, then what effect it could have - or a political clout it could become - if Japan were to announce the results of an analysis of the possibilities to declare launching of a study on building nuclear bombs.

In any case, however, as the possibility of Japan's nuclear arms development is so remote - if not flatly none, we should not lose focus on the real issue of real bombs possessed by North Korea.

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